The Debate Over Lowering Income as a War Tax Resistance Strategy

This letter comes from the edition of In These Times, twenty-five years ago today:

Exemplary Poverty

Marcia Yudkin’s “Pocketbook Pacifists” (ITT, ) is a good article showing the diversity of the war tax resistance movement. However, I don’t agree with Alan Eccleston who was quoted as being wary of us resisters who live on a non-taxable income. Many of us choose to live in “voluntary poverty” effectively to show our opposition to the spending of our tax dollars for the military. We do this because we know that not one cent of our money goes toward the race toward human extinction; unlike Eccleston, from which the military eventually gets its money and then goes forward to produce killing machines. Military tax resistance, whatever its form, is just a means. The end result is to gain support for spending for human needs (peace) and to end the threat of self-annihilation.

Brad Ott
New Orleans

I reproduced a letter from Jonathan Evans, in his role as clerk of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, to the New Jersey legislature about a militia law they were considering that would have required Quaker conscientious objectors to pay a fine into a fund destined for educational spending.

Evans also sent a note to the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention in (about which there is much more at The Picket Line):

To the Convention of Delegates appointed to revise the present Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, now sitting at Harrisburg.

The memorial of the representatives of the religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, in Pennsylvania, &c., respectfully showeth:—

That the principles and sentiments of our religious Society, respecting war and bloodshed, having been often published to the world, and at times fully made known to different legislative bodies, it does not seem needful at this time to go into much further exposition of them; but seeing that public bodies invested with extensive powers may be made greatly instrumental in aiding the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we are engaged in religious concern to draw your attention to this one great object, the true ground of happiness and prosperity of every state and government: for as it is righteousness which exalteth a nation, so it is God alone who can make the sincere labours of public functionaries a means of preserving the orderly establishment of civil government, and securing to the people their just rights and privileges. As we cannot from principle, which we believe is founded upon the doctrines and precepts of our Holy Redeemer and his apostles, join in any measures or service promotive of war; so we are alike restrained from paying any fine or tax which may be imposed as an exemption from such requisitions.

It is not from a selfish motive, or desire to be excused from bearing our share of the useful burdens of the community, or to avoid the hardships and danger incident to military operations; for we have always been willing freely and fully to contribute our portion to whatever may conduce to the common weal in civil society; and it must be obvious to any person acquainted with facts, that it cannot be from a penurious or illiberal disposition, as the distraints made upon our property are manifold more than the demands exhibited against us; but we consider it of solemn, indispensable obligation to keep the injunctions of the Supreme Lawgiver, that as He came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them, so his faithful followers, under the influence of the same spirit, will be engaged to promote love to all, and violence to no man. We therefore hope you will make such provision for the religious scruples of tender consciences as shall be evident it is merely a concession to Christian principle, not limited to any classes or persons.

With desires that you may be favoured with a measure of that wisdom which comes down from above, enabling you to overcome the numerous difficulties which we are sensible must attend your important engagement, we remain your real friends.

Signed in and on behalf of a meeting of the representatives aforesaid, held in Philadelphia, .

Jonathan Evans, Clerk.